Skip to content

The #1 Cause of High Blood Pressure According to Science

MD explains everything to know about high blood pressure and how to lower it. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Having a normal blood pressure level is necessary for overall well-being. Blood pressure is essential because it helps the flow of blood from the heart to other areas of the body like organs, tissues and arteries and having high blood pressure can cause serious long-term health issues. But the good news is there's several ways to get blood pressure under control. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Bayo Curry-Winchell, Urgent Care Medical Director and Physician, Carbon Health and Saint Mary's Hospital who shares causes of high blood pressure and how to help prevent it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What is Blood Pressure and What's Considered Too High?

high blood pressure

Dr. Curry-Winchell says, "Your blood pressure is the (normal) pressure created by blood flowing in your arteries. This pressure might change throughout the day based on multiple things such as exposure or response to mental or physical stressors. It's important to remember having high blood pressure is considered a silent disease.  Therefore, there is no guarantee you will experience any symptoms or warning signs that you have high blood pressure (defined as a number greater than 120/80). The only way to know is to get your blood pressure checked." 


Why is High Blood Pressure Dangerous?

blood pressure monitor

Dr. Curry-Winchell tells us, "A blood pressure greater than 120/80 can increase your risks of having a stroke, heart attack or developing heart disease.  A higher-than-normal blood pressure can cause damage to the arteries affecting the amount of blood flow to organs such as your eyes, brain, heart, and kidneys."


How Does Someone Know They Have High Blood Pressure?

doctor measuring a patient's blood pressure with blood pressure cuff
Shutterstock / megaflopp

"You can't always tell! Not everyone gets a warning sign they have elevated blood pressure," says Dr. Curry-Winchell. "Because high blood pressure is a silent disease some of my patients discover they have high blood pressure after a heart attack or stroke. The only way to know is to get it checked. I recommend purchasing a blood pressure cuff that you can use at home that records your readings."   


Who is at Risk for High Blood Pressure?

no smoking sign

According to Dr. Curry-Winchell, "You are at increased risk if you have a family history of hypertension, getting older (aging), diagnoses with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, eat a high salt diet, are considered overweight, drink large amounts of alcohol, and use tobacco."


What Causes High Blood Pressure?


Dr. Curry-Winchell explains, "There are several causes that increase your risk for developing high blood pressure including family history, age, lifestyle choices, etc. It is often socialized that elevated blood pressure is more common amongst African Americans. The reason is multi-faceted and not due to race/ethnicity; it is due to access to quality care, medical racially based algorithms, distrust of healthcare, and social, economic, and environmental determinants of health to name a few." 


How to Prevent High Blood Pressure and Ways to Lower it?

woman stressed with work

Dr. Curry-Winchell shares the following ways to have a normal blood pressure level. 

"Stay Active

Participating in low or high impact exercising for approximately 5 days a week for approximately 30 minutes a day can lower your risks.

Lower Stress

I encourage my patients to find ways to lower their stress each day. Take the time to invest in yourself and find ways to bring a sense of joy or relaxation to your day. It can be as simple as closing your eyes and thinking about absolutely nothing, listening to music, singing in the shower, or reading one page in the book you have been wanting to read.   

Eating Heart Healthy Foods 

A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein that includes low sodium (salt) options can help decrease your risks.

Quit Smoking

Smoking (nicotine) cigarettes causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase. When this happens over an extended period and multiples times a day you increase your risks of developing hypertension.

Drink Less or Refrain from Alcohol

Alcohol increases several hormones such as renin, vasopressin (antidiuretic) and cortisol (stress hormone) which helps regulate blood pressure. Why does this matter? An increase in these hormones such as renin causes blood vessels to narrow, decreasing the amount of blood flowing to organs. Vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone, allows your body to hold on to more fluid. Alcohol quells this function which in turn increases urination and risks for dehydration."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather